Newsletter 621 – Should We All Be Translators?

Kaslow 2If the title of this newsletter sounds dull, please keep reading, at least this paragraph. Exactly one year ago Nadine Kaslow, then-president of the American Psychological Association, gave a talk titled “Translating Psychological Science to the Public” (published in American Psychologist, July-August, 2015 issue.) Dr. Kaslow makes a compelling and engaging case that applies whatever your area of expertise and interest. Too often we talk with like-minded colleagues and rarely attempt to translate what we know to outsiders in other fields.

 As coaches, pastors, professors, or leaders of any other specialties, how do we communicate and impact people outside of our own specialties? Much of my work has involved translating practical findings from psychology to non-psychologists, including ministry leaders who lack up-to-date training in psychology or counseling. This newsletter/blog is a translation piece, converting information from selected articles or books into language and summaries that might be of value to others. We all know Christian leaders who seek to translate basic theological concepts into words that reach people who otherwise might be uninterested. Here are some of Kaslow’s conclusions geared for psychologists but with far broader implications:

  • Translation means conveying some message “in a comprehensible, memorable, and relevant manner so the audience appreciates what it means and what difference [the information or message] makes.”
  • To whom do we translate? It depends on our message. For example, it may be relevant to various professionals, policymakers, students, therapy patients/clients, or the general public.
  • How do we translate? Be succinct, accurate, and with writing that holds interest and anticipates how recipients may respond to the message.
  • What methods do we use? Obviously utilize articles, books, and traditional media like magazines, verbal presentations, radio and television. But focus too on using websites and social media. Many people are best reached through Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, podcasts and other channels including, of course, blogs. And don’t overlook the arts, museums, or public education campaigns.
  • What gets in the way? First, common attitudes, especially in professionals or academic circles where there is concern about inaccuracies or disdain of “popularizers” who may even be devalued professionally if they produce anything for popular audiences. Second, logistical barriers in those who don’t know how to reach beyond their own fields. One example, do you know how to get a magazine article or popular book published?

Thanks for reading beyond the first paragraph above. Now please leave a comment about your translating.


  1. Great concept that I can see everyday in where I serve. We have students coming from 25 countries all over the world and we have to translate and teach encourage them to translate not only concepts but the concepts to make them relevant to the culture where they come from or where they will be using them. Thank you for putting it in such clear words.


  2. Having worked with bible translators, and translating almost daily between French and English, I find parallels with your bullet points.
    Let me mention one.
    Whilst we prefer to translate for a primary audience of bible readers and hearers, we realise that we have a secondary audience in denominational gate-keepers, and a tertiary one in civic and majority religious authorities.
    Thus, we must often obfuscate original meaning with Latin-based theological jargon (elect, justify, sanctify) and avoid offending officials and priests by employing Roman institutional language (church, baptism, preach).


  3. Agreed. The most valuable people in any field are those who can translate their technical expertise into messaging that can be easily understood by those served. The programmer who can speak to corporate leaders. Financial planners who can explain things to those they serve.
    The preacher who can explain the heart of the gospel in ways that opens the hearts of the masses and convicts them to live responsibly before God.
    Thanks for the thought Gary.


  4. I have never thought of myself as a translator always thought of it in relation to different spoken languages eg: English and French etc. People have told me I am able to convert technical information to understandable information so in my understanding and based on your explanation that makes me a translator. Thanks for that I like that being a skill I possess probably something I have had a hidden desire to do but have been viewing the application too narrowly so thanks for broadening my interpretation of the concept.


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